The Chair of the HSE planning and performance committee (PPC) expressed strong reservations in March about the approval process for the revised National Service Plan 2023 (NSP), the Medical Independent (MI) can report.
On 2 March, Mr Fergus Finlay, who is also a member of the HSE board, wrote an email noting the plan is usually processed by the PPC before going to the board.
The email was part of correspondence to HSE board members concerning the development of the NSP, which was obtained by MI through Freedom of Information law.
“It is however being presented to the board tomorrow, with a recommendation from senior management that we accept it,” Mr Finlay stated in the email, which was also sent to PPC members.
“I apologise to the members of my committee for the lack of time available to involve them in the process.”
Mr Finlay wrote he had “several frank and helpful” conversations with HSE Chief Strategy Officer Mr Dean Sullivan on the issue. Following this engagement, his personal view was that “we have no choice but to adopt the NSP as now written”.
“If there were a vote tomorrow, I would vote to accept it,” he stated.
Mr Finlay added, however, that he was “puzzled as to why we are being urged to accept it now, on the basis of a paper being uploaded less than 24 hours before the meeting”.
“I can’t see that as good or acceptable practice. I’m not aware of any pressure being put on by the Department [of Health] to have a decision so fast, after so long a delay.”
Mr Finlay posited that the NSP was being processed in this manner as Mr Bernard Gloster was due to assume the role of HSE CEO on 6 March.
“That’s important because – and we can‘t afford to beat about the bush about this – this NSP is [€]20 billion short of where it needs to be, and that will lead to a significant financial crisis in the middle of
the new CEO’s first few months.”
“Having said that, I know all the efforts that have been made to get the Department to move, and I know there is no likelihood of any further progress at this stage. That’s why I believe, with a heavy
heart, that we have no choice but to adopt it. The longer we wait, the worse the situation will be on the ground.”
In a separate e-mail, board member Ms Anne Carrigy stated she was also “concerned about decision-making at this level on the Friday before the CEO starts on Monday”.
In response, the then interim HSE CEO Mr Stephen Mulvany wrote that Mr Gloster confirmed “he was content for the NSP to be re-adopted by the board and re-submitted to the Minister” in advance of his assumption of the role of CEO.
A HSE spokesperson told MI the PPC reviewed the NSP on 2 November 2022 and 8 November 2022, in advance of its approval by the HSE board later that month.
Following further amendments, an update on the NSP was provided to the PPC on 25 January 2023 prior to the approval by the board of the revised NSP. It was re-submitted to the Minister on 4 March 2023, according to the spokesperson.
It has been reported that Mr Brendan Lenihan had resigned as board member in March due to the lack of clarity within the NSP on the funding shortfall for the year.